Black Bar Associations Launch Judicial Diversity Initiative
MIAMI, FL – June 19, 2015 – FOR IMMEDIATE CIRCULATION
The Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Bar Association, Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association, Caribbean Bar Association, Haitian Lawyers Association, T.J. Reddick Bar Association, and F. Malcolm Cunningham, Sr. Bar Association are launching a joint committee focused on increasing diversity in the judiciary.
The 2014 Report of the Special Task Force to Study Enhancement of Diversity in the Judiciary and on the Judicial Nominating Commissions, convened by former Florida Bar President, Eugene Pettis, found that “Blacks and Hispanics tend to have less confidence in the courts than whites. . . . [T]he lack of diversity among judges undoubtedly serves as a major contributing factor.” The importance of a diverse bench is especially critical in the wake of several high-profile police incidents in South Florida and across the nation, including the alarming findings of the Miami Beach and the Fort Lauderdale Police Departments of racially-insensitive communications among officers who are charged with serving, protecting, and enforcing the law.
Moreover, the statistics warrant change. Miami-Dade is one of the most diverse counties in the State of Florida. Yet there are no Black Women who serve on the Circuit Court Bench for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County and only two (2) Black Women who serve the Miami-Dade County bench. Of the 123 judges who serve Miami’s circuit and county benches, only 10 (8%) are black while over 500,000 (19%) of Miami-Dade’s overall population consists of individuals who identify as black or African-American. In Broward County, the most diverse county in the state, of the 90 judges in circuit and county courts, only 6 (7%) are Black. In Palm Beach County, of the 54 judges in circuit and county courts, 5 (9%) are Black. As of late 2014, Governor Scott had appointed only two black judges to the Circuit Court in any of Florida’s 20 Circuits. Moreover, between November 2012 and April 2014, Scott failed to appoint a single black judge among 65 appointments.
The initiative will focus on four critical areas in order to foster diversity in the judiciary and increase the number of Black judges in the state: (1) Research of key facts and statistics related to diversity on the bench; (2) Recruitment of potential diverse, talented candidates for the judiciary; (3) Development of potential candidates through various support features; and (4) Effective advocacy on behalf of diversity.
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About the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Bar Association
Formerly known as the Black Lawyers of Miami, for over thirty years, the Ferguson Bar has served the Miami-Dade community by cultivating excellence and inclusion in the legal profession, promoting diversity in legal education through financial assistance and mentorship and advocating for equal access, equal opportunity and equal justice in the legal system.
About Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association
The Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association (GSCBWLA), formerly the National Bar Association Women Lawyers Division Dade County Chapter, was formed in 1985. The association’s mission is to address the concerns of women lawyers, and to address the legal, social, and economic needs of the Black community, and the community-at-large. For over thirty years, the association has been a network of attorneys dedicated to community service and the professional development of its members.
About the Caribbean Bar Association
The Caribbean Bar Association represents lawyers and members of the larger Caribbean-American community in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties. The mission of the Caribbean Bar Association is to serve and support the legal profession and to promote good relations among lawyers, the judiciary, and the Caribbean-American community.
About the Haitian Lawyers Association
The Haitian Lawyers Association (HLA) is a non-profit membership organization whose mission is to promote excellence, professionalism, equality and diversity in the legal profession and among our members and to facilitate the administration of justice while striving to protect and promote the general welfare of the Haitian-American community and other minority residents in the South Florida area.
About the T.J. Reddick Bar Association
On November 12, 1982, a group of social engineers formed the T.J. Reddick Bar Association because Blacks were not being afforded equal access into law firms as attorneys or partners, court appointments in civil or criminal cases, appointments to judgeships, or respect as attorneys in Broward County, Florida. Today, the Association has broadened its purpose and is dedicated to promoting the professional excellence of Black lawyers in Broward County, increasing the enrollment of minority students in college and law school, and promoting the general welfare of all citizens in Broward County.
About the F. Malcolm Cunningham, Sr. Bar Association
The F. Malcolm Cunningham, Sr. Bar Association, is a voluntary bar association located in Palm Beach County. In the late 1970’s a group of Black attorneys from West Palm Beach began meeting informally on a monthly basis at a local restaurant. Among them were the Honorable Edward Rodgers, the Honorable Catherine Brunson, the Honorable Moses Baker, William Holland, T.J. Cunningham, Sr., F. Malcolm Cunningham, Sr. to name a few. Because of the positive impact Frank Malcolm Cunningham had as a member of the organization and in the community, after his death in 1978 the organization was formally named F. Malcolm Cunningham Sr., Bar Association.
For media inquiries please contact: Loreal A. Arscott, Media Chair, (305)416-2221
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